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April 30, 2015

Mississippi Man Sentenced for His Role in a Conspiracy to Commit Racially Motivated Assaults, Culminating in the Killing of an African-American Man Run Over by Truck

WASHINGTON—The Justice Department announced today that John Louis Blalack, 21, of Brandon, Mississippi, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Mississippi in Jackson for his role in a federal hate crime conspiracy involving racially motivated assaults, culminating in the death of James Craig Anderson, an African-American man, in the summer of 2011. Blalack had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of commission of a hate crime for his role in the conspiracy and the cover-up. Blalack was sentenced to 240 months in prison.

Eight other defendants in related cases, Deryl Paul Dedmon, 22, John Aaron Rice, 22, Dylan Wade Butler, 23, Jonathan Kyle Gaskamp, 22, and Joseph Paul Dominick, 23, all of Brandon, Mississippi; William Kyle Montgomery, 25, of Puckett, Mississippi, Sarah Adelia Graves, 22, of Crystal Springs, Mississippi; and Shelbie Brooke Richards, 21, Pearl, Mississippi, were previously sentenced to 600 months, 220 months, 78 months, 48 months, 48 months, 224 months, 60 months and 96 months, respectively, for their roles in the conspiracy. Robert Henry Rice is awaiting sentencing.

“The Justice Department will always fight to hold accountable those who commit racially motivated assaults,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Civil Rights Division. “We hope that the prosecution of those responsible for this horrific crime will help provide some measure of closure to the victim’s family and to the larger community affected by this heinous crime.”

“This prosecution sends a clear message that this office, in partnership with the DOJ Civil Rights Division, will prioritize and aggressively prosecute hate crimes and other civil rights violations in the Southern District of Mississippi,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis of the Southern District of Mississippi.

“The FBI takes very seriously its responsibility to uphold the civil rights of all citizens,” said Special Agent in Charge Donald Alway of the FBI’s Jackson, Mississippi, Division. “Together with its law enforcement partners, the FBI will continue its efforts to aggressively pursue and bring to justice all those individuals who conspire to deprive others of their civil rights merely because of the color of their skin.”

In prior court hearings, the defendant admitted that beginning in the spring of 2011, he and others conspired with one another to harass and assault African Americans in and around Jackson. On numerous occasions, the co-conspirators used dangerous weapons, including beer bottles, sling shots and motor vehicles, to cause, and attempt to cause, bodily injury to African Americans. They would specifically target African Americans they believed to be homeless or under the influence of alcohol because they believed that such individuals would be less likely to report an assault. The co-conspirators would often boast about these racially motivated assaults.

Blalack admitted his involvement in the conspiracy and to his role in the beating and killing of James Craig Anderson. Specifically, he admitted that in the early morning hours of June 26, 2011, he and six other co-conspirators agreed to carry out their plan to find, harass and assault African Americans. At around 4:15 a.m., Blalack, Montgomery, John Aaron Rice and Butler drove to Jackson in Montgomery’s white Jeep with the understanding that Richards, Graves and Dedmon would join them a short time later.

At approximately 5:00 a.m., the four occupants of the Jeep spotted Anderson in a motel parking lot off Ellis Avenue. They decided that Anderson would be a good target for an assault because he was African-American and appeared to be intoxicated. Blalack and J. Rice got out of the Jeep to distract Anderson while they waited for Richards, Graves, and Dedmon to arrive. After Richards, Graves and Dedmon arrived in a Ford F250 truck, Rice and Dedmon physically assaulted Anderson. After the assault, the four occupants of the Jeep left the motel parking lot in the Jeep. Dedmon then deliberately used his truck to run over Anderson, causing injuries which resulted in Anderson’s death. Blalack also admitted that prior to Anderson’s death he and his co-conspirators threw beer bottles at African American and also used a sling shot to shoot metal ball bearings at victims in Jackson.

This case was the result of a cooperative effort among the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi and the Hinds County, Mississippi, District Attorney’s Office. This case was investigated by the Jackson Division of the FBI and the Jackson Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Sheldon L. Beer and Deputy Chief Paige M. Fitzgerald of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and Glenda R. Haynes of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.

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